Water Water Everywhere

Water Water Everywhere

If you travel the way I do, water is everywhere. It plays a very important role in every moment of my life.

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Water surrounds my floating home. It dictates the materials my home is built with. It cools the engine that propels my home. It cleans my body, my clothes and my dishes. It quenches my thirst. It’s home to the fish that I eat. It cools me off. It’s my playground.

According to one of my favorite websites and podcasts, howstuffworks.com, “Oceans are huge. About 70 percent of the planet is covered in ocean, and the average depth of the ocean is several thousand feet (about 1,000 meters). Ninety-eight percent of the water on the planet is in the oceans…” Considering the amount of water there is on earth, it’s hard to believe that clean water can be so difficult to obtain for so much of the world’s population.

On land in the U.S., fresh water was readily available. Now, I’m surrounded by an unlimited supply of water, but it’s all salt water. Fresh water is a daily challenge to keep in supply on a boat.

On my boat there are two fiberglass water tanks that hold a total of about 140 gallons. Both tanks are plumbed to the kitchen sink (shown below), two bathroom sinks, and one washdown hose on deck. The lines are pressurized by a water pump and accumulator so water is readily available at each tap.

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Getting water into the tanks is the hard part. There are three ways to refill our tanks with fresh water.

Jerry Jugs

Long-term cruisers often carry 5-gallon Jerry Jugs on deck for diesel, gasoline and potable water. These jugs can sit on deck as a last resort when tanks run dry, or they can be used on a frequent basis for transporting the liquids back and forth from shore. Instead of bringing the whole boat to a fuel dock or a marina slip, we can take a dinghy full of Jerry Jugs to shore and refill in smaller quantities. The jugs are then heaved back up on deck when full. It’s hard work, never fun and the nozzles always leak.

In the islands, water from land is always suspect. Sometimes local water supplies come from wells and sometimes it is generated from a Reverse Osmosis procedure. Well water may not always be potable water and a bit of bleach or chlorine should be added before consumption.

Catching Rain

In the Caribbean, it rains a lot. The storms are often isolated squalls and pack a punch. As Captain Ron would say, they come on ya fast and they leave ya fast. Other times a cloud will pass overhead sprinkling a bit of liquid sunshine.

Mostly, it rains in the middle of the night when I’m sound asleep. Suddenly, everyone on board jumps up to race around and close the hatches just in time for the heavy rains to stop. It’s rarely enough for a good boat wash and usually just enough to be irritating.

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Many sailboat owners construct some type of rain catch, either by blocking off the decks to pool water directly into the deck fill, or by suspending a tarp or piece of canvas over the deck to direct water down into the deck fill.

The problem with barricading my decks is that our anchor chain is in need of replacement or regalvanization and it leaves a fair amount of rust on the bow (front of the boat). It doesn’t rain enough to thoroughly rinse the decks before I would feel comfortable letting rain water run off my salty decks into my water tanks.

On an ambitious day, I may move rain catch up to the top of the boat project list and break out the sewing machine to make a custom rain catch with tarp/canvas/sail material. One boat project is really never just one boat project though. If I ended up using a rain-catch, this would surely bump filter-replacement higher up the list. Rain water tends to increase the amount of sediments reaching the filters. Nothing is ever really free, is it?

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Making Water

My preferred method of replenishing the water supply is by means of a watermaker. It’s a 12-volt system plumbed to turn salt water into fresh water in a desalinization process. The watermaker in my boat is about 10 years old but still produces about 6 gallons per hour of fresh potable water, plumbed directly to my two water tanks. Newer machines are being built with a higher output, lower power draw and lower cost.

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These machines are a significant investment, but can save money, time and hassle over a long period. They do require maintenance and are tricky to work on. It must be run every three days or less to prevent marine growth and bacteria from destroying the internal membranes. If unable to run the machine, it must be flushed out or prepared for long term storage by what is called pickling the membranes.

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Where does your fresh water come from?

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Be My Guest

If you would like to be a guest in my tiny house, there are a few things you should know…

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When I first told my family and friends I was going to move onto a boat and sail away, they all thought I was crazy! I mean, who does that, really?

After just a few months of sharing stories and photos of all the amazing adventures Peter and I are having, everyone became a little more intrigued in this “life less ordinary.” The questions moved from WHY to HOW. They wanted to know more about how we live in such a tiny space, with two dogs, and without being at each other’s throats.

They wanted to know if we have fresh water, if we have toilets, if we can cook and if we have power. They thought it all sounded so cool, so easy and fun! Then, we started actually having our friends and family come stay with us on the boat. It usually takes a few days for our guests to adjust to our lifestyle. We LOVE having visitors, but we also understand that our way of life is not for everyone. For the most part, you either love it or you hate it. We, of course, love our crazy life on the water!

Preparing Our Guests

How do we prepare our guests for what they are about to experience? It’s harder than you think. It may all sound good over the phone but living on a boat is something you really can’t understand until you have actually done it.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind before planning a visit:

  • Clothing – We are in the tropics. It’s HOT. For the ladies, bring a couple bikinis, cover-ups, sun dresses, tank tops and shorts. No long pants! Maybe a light zip-up or jacket for the evenings if you tend to get chilly. For the fellas, be sure to bring a couple pairs of swim trunks and t-shirts. That’s it – really. It rarely gets colder than 80-degrees! Oh, and bring enough undies for your entire trip. You may not get a chance to do laundry!
  • Dirty Laundry – We do have a small washing machine on board but it takes a lot of power and a lot of water to run it. Most places we visit have a Laundromat nearby if you really need one, but down here in the islands it’s not uncommon to wear the same clothes over and over again. Same goes for beach towels and bath towels. We hang them up to dry outside and reuse them again the next day. You don’t need to bring your own unless you have a favorite beach towel you like to use.

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  • Shoes – Bring a pair of flip flops for your arrival and one pair of comfortable shoes for the airport and your return to your home climate.
  • PJ’s - We usually have a nice Caribbean breeze in the winter evenings, but sometimes the wind dies down making it really hot inside the cabin. Bring light and comfortable clothing to sleep in.
  • Bedding – We supply our guests with pillows and sheets. We can always give you a blanket, but we sincerely doubt you’ll ask for one. Please remember this is not a hotel and you won’t get your own queen size bed. In fact, you won’t even get a mattress. The sleeping arrangements are comprised of foam cushions so if you don’t like camping you probably won’t like sleeping on our boat. It’s not terrible, but it’s probably not what you are used to. If you don’t mind crashing on a friends’ couch, you’ll love it!

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  • Baggage – Leave your baggage at home. Seriously. Not only do we want you to leave your stress behind, we want you to leave your suitcases too! Please do not bring any suitcases or bags that have frames in them. Whether you check your luggage or just bring a carry-on, make sure it can be folded, fully collapsed or easily stuffed into small places. Your sleeping quarters will be reduced proportionately by how much stuff you bring.
  • Hair Styling – Leave your curling iron, hair dryer and straightener at home. We swim in the ocean every day and no one cares what your hair looks like out here. Instead, bring a few rubber bands, hair clips, headbands or hats. If anything, you’ll want to get it tied up and out of the wind as quickly as possible.
  • Makeup – Bring it if you must, but you probably won’t want to bother with it once you arrive. Before I moved aboard I was a little hesitant at just the thought of reducing my makeup application from daily to maybe once a month. Now, I prefer only putting on makeup two or three times a year for special occasions. If you like to wear makeup to the beach, you very well might want it on a boat too. For me, mascara and saltwater don’t mix :)
  • Toiletries – We have shampoo, conditioner, soap and toothpaste if you prefer to use ours, but feel free to bring your favorite items along. Bring a bathroom bag to keep them nice and tidy so they don’t go flying when the boat is under way. We have sunscreen and bug spray but you’re welcome to bring more.
  • Clean Feet – Just like you might remove your shoes before entering your home, we leave our shoes in the dinghy. This prevents sand, black scuffs and dirt from getting all over our decks and inside the boat. If our feet are dirty or salty, we rinse them off with fresh water from a hose at the back of our boat before coming inside. We do everything we can to keep saltwater out. Saltwater that ends up inside our boat will attract and retain moisture, making everything feel wet. Salt is also extremely corrosive. Please respect our home and help keep the salt in the ocean.
  • Showering – Okay, you might not like this one, but we take our daily showers off the back of the boat. We shower at the end of the day when the temperature begins to cool down a little. If we were to shower in the morning it would be a waste of water since it’s inevitable that we get hot and sweaty during the day no matter what we are doing. Before the sun goes down we jump in the salt water, lather up on the swim ladder, jump back in the water to rinse, then repeat. For the final rinse we use the fresh water hose on the back of the boat to rinse off all the salt water before coming back inside. We also rinse off with fresh water after every time we go swimming.
  • Fresh Water – We make our own. We have a watermaker on the boat that converts salt water into fresh water at a rate of 6 gallons per hour. We can only run the watermaker when we have enough power during the peak hours of the day when the most sunlight is hitting our solar panels. It’s difficult to keep up on making enough fresh water, especially for guests that aren’t used to being conscious of their water usage. Please do your best to conserve water. It comes at a premium on a boat!
  • Dirty Dishes – We let the dogs clean our plates, or brush food scraps into the water. We avoid stinky trash and try not to let any food particles go down the sink drain in fear of a clog. We don’t stack dirty dishes because it takes more fresh water to clean off the back side of a plate unnecessarily. We scrub dirty dishes with soap and a lightly wetted sponge, then carefully rinse with low water pressure to conserve fresh water. We never leave the water running!
  • Electricity – Our power comes from the sun and the wind. If we need to charge our batteries more than what the solar panels and wind generator can provide, we run our inboard 5KW diesel generator.

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  • Cell Phones, Laptops and Cameras - If you need to plug something in we have to run our inverter which takes more power to run. We can do it occasionally, but don’t expect to be able to plug things in whenever you want. If you have a 12-volt car charger, bring it!! This will allow you to charge your device at any time on our boat. If not, your charging time with a wall charger will be limited.
  • Internet – The ability to connect to the internet varies greatly depending on which country we are in. We are currently in the U.S. Virgin Islands with US cell and data services available and we can boost signal to you if your service doesn’t work here. You can use our laptop to check messages if we can pick up an open wifi signal with our long-range booster, otherwise you’ll have to wait until you can get a wifi signal at a restaurant. Connection speeds are often painfully slow and far from what most people are used to.
  • Toilets – Our potties are manual pump marine toilets and are referred to as ‘the head’. You pump in salt water to flush. Due to the size and inaccessible locations of our plumbing lines, we have taken the advice of other cruisers and opted to NOT flush toilet paper into our lines. All toilet paper and feminine products are placed in a lined trash can next to the toilet. This may sound gross but it’s common practice in most boats and also in foreign countries with less than quality sewer systems. The last thing we want is clogged toilet paper in the lines! We empty the trash frequently and keep the windows open. It’s really not as bad as it sounds.

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  • Strange Noises - You’ll hear noises you’re not used to hearing. We spent months identifying all the strange sounds on our boat when we first moved aboard and now we know instantly when something doesn’t sound right. We can even tell how much wind there is by the harmonics it makes on our rigging. Try to relax and let us worry about the noises.
  • Sea Legs – It may take about a day or two to get your sea legs. Some people take to the ocean naturally, and some have a harder time getting used to the rocking of the boat. Bring seasickness medication if you know you’ll need it. Being sleepy is much better than being sick. After awhile it will feel more strange to be on land than on the boat!
  • Finding Food – Help yourself to whatever you can find inside our boat but feel free to ask for help getting it out. Our cupboards and fridge are like a Rubik’s Cube where everything has to be carefully arranged to make it all fit. Lucky for me I love to organize :)
  • Physical Abilities – Unfortunately, visiting our boat requires a fair amount of physical abilities. The primary method for boarding our boat is by climbing up the swim ladder on the stern, then up and over our stainless steel railing. Once on deck, you take a step up, then two steps down into the cockpit. To reach the main cabin, choose from one of our two 5′ vertical companionway ladders. Watch your step, hang on tight and remember to descend backwards taking six steps before reaching the cabin floor. Practice your squats and lunges before you arrive and be prepared for a mini-workout just to move around our home.

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  • Must Love Dogs – Having pets in a small space means there is no separation between you and the dogs. First and foremost, this is their home, not yours. Be prepared to have them sit next to you on the couch, lick you for attention and try to sit on your lap. They love to share your pillows with you and think cuddling is what they were born to do. The dogs have free roam down below and are usually in the cockpit with us when up top. They are big and in your face. Don’t be surprised to see dog hair everywhere – despite vacuuming all the time it never goes away. We have a specific routine to feed them and take them potty at certain times of the day so just know we need to attend to our furry children before we can attend to you.

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  • Don’t Forget – You’ll need a pair of sunglasses and a smile! (Polarized lenses are best).

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Think you could stand to come stay in my tiny floating home? Please, be my guest!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Entertaining in a Tiny House

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The cruising life often takes us to far off places away from our families and our closest friends. We sail off into the sunset with our compass pointed toward paradise. We enjoy the sunsets and sip on tropical drinks with brightly colored straws and little umbrellas. We travel to places only accessible by boat or where air travel can be costly. We take a lot of pretty pictures and make magical memories, though there are also many moments where boat life isn’t easy.

We don’t get to see our families as often as we’d like. Out on the water we are fittingly “all in the same boat” and as cruisers, we all understand the importance of sticking together. Close friendships form quickly and we bind together a new kind of family where everyone is welcome.

This year, we were lucky enough to have my Dad fly into the Virgin Islands and spend the holidays with us on the boat. He got to experience first-hand the different kind of life we’ve been living this past year and he celebrated a very merry Cruiser Christmas with us too!

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On Christmas Eve we hosted a lobster feast on our 42′ sailboat for 9 adults, 2 kids and 2 big dogs. We have a spacious center-cockpit style boat where we all ate dinner and spent most of the evening. The dogs and kids stayed down below where there was more room to play and go to sleep early.

Parking is never an issue on a boat. Everyone travels by dinghy and can tie up to any point on our boat. There were 5 dinghies tied up to the back of our boat – the most we’ve ever had before. The most accessible place to climb on and off is at the stern where we have a heavy-duty ladder. Up and over can be a challenge for some, but this crowd had no problem.

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Here are a few tips I’d like to pass on for entertaining in a tiny (floating) house:

  1. Take It Outside – Weather permitting of course, there is better ventilation and stretching room if there is enough seating for everyone outside. The design of our boat makes this a breeze.
  2. Where’s The Restroom? – Keep a clear path to the restroom and make sure everyone knows where it is. On a boat it’s important to know how to operate the toilets too. In a small space, you probably don’t want to announce your business to everyone so include this in the tour upon arrival.
  3. Stow Your Breakables – Tiny spaces make it hard to not bump into things or brush up against everything near you. Play it safe and stow away any breakable items that might accidentally get bumped or broken. On our boat, most everything is always stowed away at all times.
  4. Decorations – Keep it simple. We normally like to go crazy with holiday decorations but on the boat we try to keep it simple. Instead of spending hours hanging and displaying decorations, we used ‘warm’ LED outdoor lights to add a little festive feeling. They don’t clutter up the space and add just a little bit of cheer. We actually keep one string up inside our enclosed cockpit 24/7 just because we like the warm glow in the evenings!
  5. High Five For Finger Food – Go heavy on the appetizers if you don’t have enough seating for everyone. All that’s required is standing room, fingers and a napkin. This also saves on the amount of dirty dishes created too!
  6. Keep A Tune – A little bit of background music can lighten up any space, even tiny ones. It raises spirits and keeps the focus off of the physical surroundings. Play something appropriate for your guests and keep it on a low volume. This time of year we had a good internet access and we were able to play Christmas music on Pandora through our cockpit speakers.
  7. Finish The Food Prep – If possible, have almost all food prepared before your guests arrive. There’s probably not room for helping hands in the kitchen and no one wants to see the craziness of food prep with less than desirable counter space ;) I know my galley doesn’t fit anyone else but me!
  8. Dinner is Served – Skip the buffet style dinner and have one person dish up the plates and pass them out to the guests. There’s always room for seconds but it’s much easier to keep everyone seated instead of creating a line with nowhere to go.
  9. Drinks Are On Me - Keep all the ice, pop, juice, beer and booze in one place. Designate one person to play bartender to mix and refill drinks. Same with the food, it’s easier to have one person within reach of the drinks instead of having each person climb around just to get a refill.
  10. Do The Dishes – Take dirty dishes away from your guests as soon as possible. When there is barely enough room for people in a tiny space, there is even less room for dirty dishes to set down. Instead of letting them pile up in the *tiny* sink, wash dishes and silverware as they are brought in. I keep a mix of large and small plates and a full set of silverware. This is enough for one meal for a big crowd but everything needs to be washed and reused for serving dessert. Staying on top of the dishwashing before it piles up is well worth the effort.

What are your favorite tips for entertaining in a Tiny House?

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]